The West Midlands of England has always been something of a football hotbed, but never before have three of the area’s biggest teams, all while being Premier League clubs, broken their transfer record in the same summer.
Talk about trying to keep up with the neighbours. Records in the Greater Birmingham and West Midlands area are relative; we’re not talking about the £200,000,000 plus exorbitant spending done by London club Chelsea here.
What signings there have been at Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers have been made for very different reasons. None of these clubs are realistic title challengers, and even the most ardent fan of any can see that.
Newly-promoted West Brom are already looking over their shoulders nervously, and feature prominently in the Premier League betting on relegation. While they are among the favourites on the exchanges, Villa are desperately trying to avoid a repeat of last season’s brush with the drop.
As for Wolves, they have enjoyed comfortable top half finishes recently, so have their sights set significantly higher than their Birmingham-based neighbours. Here is a discussion of the record signings made in the West Midlands this past summer.
Grady Diangana (West Brom)
After spending the previous season on loan at The Hawthorns, where he earned automatic promotion from the EFL Championship, the Baggies are believed to have matched their record transfer to get DR Congo-born England Under-21 cap Grady Diangana for keeps.
To former parent club West Ham United and its owners David Gold and David Sullivan, who were previously chiefs at Birmingham City, coincidentally, a fee that could rise beyond a reported £18,000,000 looked like good business. Hammers fans were not so impressed.
Diangana caught the eye in the second tier, scoring eight goals in 30 league games during his loan spell under Slaven Bilic who used to be West Ham boss. Hammers captain Mark Noble was very vocal in his criticism of the sale, but the East London outfit’s loss is a gain for Albion.
Fabio Silva (Wolves)
Nuno Espirito Santo likes signing compatriots from Portugal. In Fabio Silva, he has brought a teenage talent to Molineux who is very much one for the future. Born just after the conclusion of the 2002 World Cup, Porto were loath to part with him.
Silva is the son of Boavista cult hero Jorge, a defensive midfielder who helped them win the Primeira Liga in 2000-01. Unlike his father, he plays a striker and cost a reported £35,000,000 following some impressive performance for the Portugal youth teams.
Ollie Watkins (Villa)
From being named The Football League’s Young Player of the Year in 2017 to a record £28,000,000 transfer to Villa Park in just three years, there has been a meteoric rise for Ollie Watkins. One of many gems unearthed by the superb scouting network at Brentford, who spotted him at Exeter City, it’s no surprise that Dean Smith went back to his old club to solve a lack of goals.
Watkins has since made headlines for good and bad reasons on the pitch with Villa. Goals, penalty misses and dodgy decisions decided by VAR, it’s all been happening for the forward since he came into the Premier League.